Have you read Anita Silvey's new book? It is a collection of essays from dozens of people in every sort of profession from astronaut to writer, describing the children's books that changed their lives and influenced their paths. I received this book for Christmas, and am still inspired every time I pick it up. This is why I write for kids! Because children's literature, no matter the rap it gets from much of the elitist intellectual world, has the power to change and inspire like no adult book I have ever read. Because one book can take a child's life from mundane to wondrous, allow them to see the world as an adventure, help them become who they want to be and not merely who others think they can be.
And of course it got me thinking: what children's book most influenced my life? I don't think I could whittle it down to just one without many tears shed, so I sort of cheated and chose a series:
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (and the rest of the Anne books), by L. M. Montgomery.
I remember the Christmas when I was ten years old and my aunt gave me my first Anne book. It was a small, squarish volume with a picture of Anne in a pink dress (I know, the illustrator didn't read it so thoroughly, huh?) on the front. I started reading it that afternoon and didn't stop until sometime around two o'clock in the morning (I had a good nightlight, let me tell you...we went through a lot together). I was enthralled. I could hardly believe that someone had written a book so wonderful, and that there were more.
It's hard to begin listing what the Anne books taught me, because in each of many re-readings I learned more. First of all, I learned how much I could love a book, how it could wrap itself around my heart and imagination; that very much influenced my desire to write and give readers this kind of joy. I learned to live and love boldly and passionately, to make my dreams real, to never stop imagining. I discovered the difference between true and false friends, learned that a change in a friendship doesn't mean it has ended, learned that even people we dislike have good in them, sometimes a lot of it, if we only look. I learned, in Anne of Ingleside, that it was really cool to be a mother, and that even a mama of seven could still follow her dreams (I hope I have the chance to put that to the test someday. :). In Anne's House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside, I learned that death is part of life, and that even with sorrow life can be joyous. I was assured that true love exists and that I would find my own. I learned that love requires work, and that it was worth it.
I was also astonished, in Rainbow Valley, to read about a girl named 'Faith'...who, incidentally, had a lot in common with me as far as personality and trouble-making went. I had never even met anyone with my name, but suddenly being a 'Faith' in a world of 'Sarahs' and 'Megans' and 'Katies' and 'Ashleys' was pretty cool—I will forever be grateful to L. M. Montgomery for that one, small decision. :)
Is there a kids' book that changed your life? I'd love to hear about it!